A few days ago when I was on El Hierro, one of the Canary Islands, I visited a village that was lived in for hundreds of years and was only completely abandoned about fifty years ago. It was all built of rough lava rocks—even the painfully uneven floors of the homes—and few bigger than a single room. They all had small garden spaces enclosed by low walls also made of porous volcanic rocks. The surrounding lands would be suitable for goats to graze but little else.
As often happens to me as a lifelong story teller (if only to myself most of the time), I looked at one of these little gardens, and a woman who had lived there centuries before appeared in my imagination. I saw her standing over young corn plants only about two feet high and still shiny and light green because dust and time had not yet dulled their lustre.
I had been feeling a little low and was casting about for signs of something that would help me through this time. I thought about how the woman would feel as she tended her spring garden, stroking the soft and pliant young leaves, completely comfortable with the patience a garden requires. The corn would form soon enough. The squashes would come in their time. She could see the young plants and know that all they needed was time and her tender care.
I felt as if my entire surroundings were vibrating with the same message, and all day I tried to see things through the lens of patience. The crumbling houses that had been left unrestored were patient about the time it took to return to the earth. The wildflowers growing in the spaces between the rocks had awaited the time and place to set down roots. The entire coast was a story of waves shaping the cliffs over endless time.
My travel companion Francine has known me about forty years, and in another conversation about healing we were having a few days ago, she commented that I’d never been very content with a slow pace for anything. “You want things to happen boom-boom-boom,” she said. And it’s true. I check my watch every few minutes when things seem to be taking too long. I walk faster than I need to a lot of the time. I interrupt people before they have finished talking because I think I’ve already gotten their point. I dig into the grocery bag to eat something before I’ve gotten home. I could go on, but I’ve lost patience with thinking of other examples.
I need to let my life after losing Ivan take the shape it will. I have to remind myself that moving on sometimes means not moving at all. It means waiting for the right moment. It means recognizing that growth is happening even if too slowly for me to notice it. It means being present rather than focusing on what’s next. I can get better at this, but of course I want to be better at it right now. I’m impatient about being impatient.
Feeling completely at home in my new reality is going to take time. I have to remind myself that if fate is kind, I will have all the time I need.